Communications minister Dina Pule “has no intention of apologising to the Sunday Times at this stage”, her spokesman, Siya Qoza, told TechCentral on Monday. In addition, she did not attempt to arrange a meeting with the paper or ask anyone to represent her at such a meeting.
Qoza’s comments contradict a report in the Sunday Times at the weekend that claimed that the minister’s lawyer, Ronnie Bokwa, contacted the journalists a day after she hosted a press conference where she accused them of trying to blackmail her, saying she wanted to apologise.
Bokwa had contacted the Sunday Times under instructions to broker an “armistice”. Bokwa reportedly arranged a meeting with two of the journalists, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter, in Midrand last Saturday, where he reportedly said his mandate was to propose an apology and a retraction on Pule’s behalf.
“We have wronged the Sunday Times,” Bokwa reportedly said.
Pule called a press conference at a Johannesburg hotel on 22 April, where she claimed that three of the newspaper’s journalists — Wa Afrika, Hofstatter and Rob Rose — were conducting a smear campaign against her and that their “handlers” wanted to influence decision making around the awarding of tenders for the manufacturing of digital set-top boxes.
According to the Sunday Times, meetings were arranged with Pule in the wake of the press conference after the paper’s editor, Phylicia Oppelt, called on the minister to produce evidence of wrongdoing by the journalists or apologise. But Pule failed to appear, the newspaper said, sending communications department deputy director-general Themba Phiri instead.
But Qoza on Monday denied this. “[The minister] did not initiate contact with the Sunday Times. Nor did she ask anyone to represent her in a meeting with the paper,” he claimed.
Oppelt could not immediately be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the South African Police Service has agreed, at the urging of Democratic Alliance MP Marian Shinn, to begin an investigation into alleged corruption involving appointments by her and her alleged romantic partner Phosane Mngqibisa at the department of communications and state-owned entities in the sector.
At the same time, parliament’s ethics committee last week began probing allegations that Mngqibisa benefited financially from the 2012 ICT Indaba in Cape Town, an event the department of communications organised.
Pule is also facing a probe by the public protector, Thuli Madonsela, whose report is expected to be published as early as this week. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media